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Tainted Heroin Charges May Be First In Nation

Bill Rinehart
Acting US Attorney Benjamin Glassman announces what he says are the first federal indictments for carfentanil distribution in the country.

Two people have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Cincinnati on charges to distribute heroin laced with a drug used as an animal tranquilizer. Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman announced the charges Wednesday afternoon against 31-year-old Phillip Watkins and 28-year-old Jeanetta Crawford.

They were arrested September 15.

"This is the first carfentanil trafficking case that we have ever brought in this district. First federal carfentanil case we've ever brought in the state of Ohio," Glassman says.

"And I believe it is the first federal carfentanil indictment ever in the country."

The drug mixture is blamed for dozens of overdoses in and around Hamilton County over the last several weeks. 

Glassman says a grand jury returned seven indictments against the Elmwood Place couple on Wednesday, including conspiracy, distribution of a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance analogue and operating drug involved premises.

"We are continuing to investigate the sources of supply. That's ongoing," Glassman says.

According to an affidavit filed in federal court, on August 21, a person overdosed in Springfield Township, and was revived with naloxone. That person later indicated they would cooperate with police in the investigation.

The affidavit says that led to several controlled purchases, and a SWAT raid.

Tim Reagan with the DEA says the heroin overdose that led to the arrest was just one of several in the region.

"We've got a bunch of different people selling carfentanil on the street, lacing heroin with carfentanil.

"But clearly they're getting it from someone else, and someone is getting it from somewhere and it's ultimately coming from China through Mexico."

Reagan says Watkins and Crawford are likely low level dealers.

Glassman says while this is probably the first federal carfentanil indictment, it won't be the last.